Some time last year, the media threw a huge hissy fit about Pepe the frog having been co-opted by far right extremists. It got so bad that Hillary Clinton’s campaign team wrote a whole blog post on the official Clinton website to brand Trump as a racist by Linking him and his fans to the meme. Even The anti-defamation league decided to join the circus, declaring Pepe to be hate symbol.
At the time, Pepe’s original creator, Matt Furie, was livid at the thought of his meme being racist and even wrote an article for the New York Times, denouncing racism and asking “Non-racist” fans of his meme to fight back:
Furie and Fantagraphics denounced the “alt-right’s” use of Pepe. “It’s completely insane that Pepe has been labeled a symbol of hate,” he wrote in an essay for Time magazine. “It’s a nightmare, and the only thing I can do is see this as an opportunity to speak out against hate.”
“Before Pepe the Frog was a meme designated a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League, he began his life as a blissfully stoned frog in my comic book ‘Boy’s Club,’ where he enjoyed a simple life of snacks, soda and pulling his pants all the way down to go pee,” Furie wrote in Time. As early Pepe memes elevated his popularity and Furie was entertaining multiple licensing deals, the cartoonist recalls thinking, “Memes rule!”
“But that was before 2016, a time when our culture evolved to include Internet culture in this election (mostly to seek out the Millennial vote). A smug Trump-Pepe was shared by Trump himself on Twitter in the beginning of the election race, a move I assumed was a nod to young voters. Or perhaps it was a more sinister nod to some fringe, racist groups that used Pepe as a mascot for their agenda. Or just another famous person sharing a Pepe meme because it’s cool (like Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj did in the past). I have no idea.”
Furie ended his essay by stating that “Pepe is love,” and soon responded with a new comic showing Pepe horrified at what he’s become.
After spending the past few months fighting a losing battle and realizing that he cannot control the Internet, Matt has decided to “kill” the meme. In one of his new comic books, Pepe the frog was laid to rest in a coffin:
After fighting an uphill battle to reclaim the feel-good image of his popular character after it was perverted by a culture of hate, cartoonist Matt Furie laid to rest Pepe the Frog in Fantagraphics’ Free Comic Book Day offering, “World’s Greatest Cartoonists.” In a one-page strip, Pepe lies in an open casket while “Boy’s Club” friends Landwolf, Brett and Andy mourn him in their irreverent fashion.
This should work out just fine. Because if there’s one thing the Internet is known for, its doing what they have been told to do. Does this guy seriously think people are going to stop making variations of his meme that he dislikes just because he “killed” it in a comic? This may be a difficult concept for him to grasp, but once you make a meme and post it online, you do not own it anymore.
The funny thing is that in his attempt to kill Pepe, he just created a rare Pepe(I’m calling it ‘Coffin Pepe’). I look forward to seeing racist versions of coffin Pepe in the next coming days. Maybe he’ll have to kill it a second time.